The Enduring Problems of Our Democracy

One of the weaknesses of a democracy is the uninformed or under educated voter.  Usually such people fail to make the effort to vote and often they split their voting pattern between different candidates thus largely cancelling out their effect.  But there is always the danger that some demagogue will manage to gather them up on a single issue to become a large enough constituency to affect an election, either positively, as in those who flocked to the Goldwater party in 1964, and its defeat, or negatively as in 2016.  

Goldwater’s defeat led to a congress that could and did enact several beneficial changes in the laws and society.  One feature of the people who tilted that election is that they have remained about 38% of the polled population regardless of the issue discussed, or the obscenely improper actions of their Pied Piper.  Combining that solid base with any significant proportion of the remaining 60% will give a wanna-be tyrant the power to change the nation’s future.  

If the forces of sanity manage to regain control of the levers of power in the next election the election laws can be modified to limit the effect of this cadre of single issue voters. Some change in, or even the elimination of, the Electoral College is needed to prevent another minority president.  The latter will require an amendment to the Constitution, a creaky, cranky, out of date system designed for the conditions of a widely scattered rural population over two hundred years ago when information took weeks to spread from New Hampshire to Georgia.  Obviously that condition does not exist in today’s twitterized internet age.

The only vestige of value of the Electoral College is the debatable issue of providing smaller, very rural states some influence in the presidential election, which actually seems to have created a situation where the power of the votes of Rhode Island, Wyoming or Delaware’s citizens exceed those of a Texan or Californian.  

Another problem that requires some alteration is the results of the Citizen’s United Court decision, as the effects of secret donations by large corporate sponsors and the overly wealthy “two percent” have created a system where they have too much influence on prospective candidates, as well as apparent ownership on incumbent legislators running for re-election.

Within Congress, enforceable rules must be written to prevent one party from denying a person nominated for a judicial position the prompt and fair hearing process they deserve.  Add to that some limitation on the executive from staffing of sensitive agency positions with “acting” heads for more than a reasonable period of time.

Another weakness of the current set of working rules in Congress is the ability to prevent proposed legislation from getting a hearing or more importantly the initial floor vote that would send a bill to a committee for public investigation and evaluation.  Over the years both parties when in power have taken undue advantage of some of the sometimes archaic rules to prevent the prompt and appropriate handling of the people’s business, and that needs to change.

The same is true with gerrymandering.  While generally a state function, districts should be contiguous, and drawn without excessive political influence on their lines.  Over the last 240 years this nation’s population has grown from a few million settlers scattered along the Atlantic coast to a vibrant diverse nation stretching across the continent, and reaching across the Pacific Ocean.  It did not do that, despite its prolific families, by birthrate alone.  It has taken in the best and brightest survivors of, wars, pogroms, famines, disasters and most violent events in history, who have grown and returned untold dividends to their adopted nation.

Our current birth rate is barely perceptible above the replacement rate and apparently falling to the point that without immigration our population will decline.  That means less workers to man the factories, farms and businesses, less clever minds to maintain our admired creative work force, less discoveries and eventually will affect our place in the world.  That does not mean “Open Borders” but borders with doors that do open for the worthy peoples of all levels of society.

To do that we need a legislature and executive who are intelligent, well-educated and moral. Should that miracle occur, the nation can and will continue to prosper and lead the world to new heights of prosperity, even peace and survival of the planet.  This coming election may be the turning point of the twenty first century.

Charlie Jensen

Copyright 2019, Foc’sle Chatter, All Rights Reserved

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